"Stromness - Orkney's Second Town But The Prettiest" Stromness by scotlandscotour

Stromness Travel Guide: 24 reviews and 53 photos

Stromness - Pretty Harbour, Cobbles & Cute Houses

Stromness is often the first place you see on Orkney - the main ferry from Scrabster (Thurso) comes in here.

It's a really pretty setting in the sheltered harbour called Hamnavoe, obviously a prized maritime shelter since before Viking times. The perfect setting for a town, on the sloping land above the bay.
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Old Fashioned High Street

Stromness town stole my heart in the first five minutes - it is like stepping back in time a few hundred years to a time before when high streets were ruined by neon signs and corporate brand names.

Stromness has a higgledy-piggledy street, never quite straight for long, meandering along, with old fashioned shop windows and a paved street. The people are so friendly it hurts, to leave.

Whether you are arriving, leaving or just popping into town - spend a few hours at least, exploring the narrow alley ways and stepped passages, the delightful harbour and views.

The town has good accommodation, eating and drinking places, a lively community and many crafts folk - so give it some time - it'll repay you!
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Narrow Alleys Between Houses

Winter Shelter in Stromness
During winter storms the houses huddle and brace against the winds with their gable ends into the harbour and leaving only narrow gaps, through which the wind howls. The high street is generally very sheltered - like being in a tunnel or channel running parrallel to the coast. Only at these gaps do you get a sense for how wild it is out at sea, and scary with the awesome power of nature.

Even the boats in the harbour need tying up tightly as they jostle and strain on ropes like frightened horses.

In the sanctuary of the High Street the wind may whistle and howl but you feel safe, the pub lights glow and the sound of music and laughter caresses you, luring you into its cosy warmth.

To experience this helps you imagine life in the clustered villages like Scara Brae or the Brochs - huddled down, cosy and communal.
I don't think too much has changed on Orkney, judging by Stromness in winter - thankfully!

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Pros and Cons
  • Pros:The most charming harbour, winding narrow streets, old fashioned shops, bars and the ferry from Scrabster (by Thurso, Scotland)
  • Cons:Uninspiring B&Bs and Hostel closed, loses out to the bigger town - Kirkwakk
  • In a nutshell:We chose to live hear - which says a lot (you'll understand if you read my tips and observations of Scotland)
  • Last visit to Stromness: Sep 2005
  • Intro Updated Sep 10, 2005
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